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The Voice of the HeartThe Working of Mervyn Peake's Imagination$
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G. Peter Winnington

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9781846310225

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846314391

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date: 14 December 2018



(p.130) 6 Birds
The Voice of the Heart
Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the meaning of birds in Mervyn Peake's work. Peake uses birds as a symbol of love, often in opposition to rocks, stones, or boulders, although they have another purpose: when people are islands, birds might serve as aerial messengers or bridge to link them. Peake's symbolic birds are generally figurative, but may also be literal. At the beginning of Titus Groan, when Steerpike first visits the runesquallors, he flatters Irma and her heart is touched. At once, ‘somewhere in the vaults of her bosom a tiny imprisoned bird [begins] to sing’. Mr Pye's attention to Miss Dredger causes a similar sensation in her, ‘as though the wing of a bird had flapped beneath her ribs’. Here Peake emphasizes the bird's wing because of the importance of wings in the rest of that story. He quite often exploits the attributes of birds. Titus and Juno, for instance, experience the first stirrings of their love as ‘an apprehension sweet as far bird-song’. In these cases, the birds express love, as experienced by the heart.

Keywords:   birds, love, messenger, Titus Groan, wings

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